Our Celestial Media Player

August 2, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 1:24 am   Category: Personal Revelation,Theology

Here it is friends: My new analogy on how revelation really works. This has been tempered in the fires of a hot debate with Jeffrey Giliam over the last few weeks and I think you might like it. (Or not…)

The theory uses the Internet as an analogy. Imagine God has a Celestial server and our minds are the client-side computers downloading and uploading communications with him. Each of us has a unique situation — some have faster processors than others; some have faster bandwidth than others, etc. (The good news is that all can upgrade – aka repent). When it comes to the Latter Day Saints, it seems that many or even most are utilizing download capacities of about 14.4 Kbps to 28.8 Kbps. (For you novices, that is the equivalent of a painfully slow dialup connection.) It’s not that they couldn’t have faster connections; they just have spiritual spyware and other things that are limiting the connection and bogging them down. They can get some basic information downloaded, but the process is slow and tedious and amount of info that can be downloaded without losing the connections is quite limited. That means no streaming video or audio for them even if they wanted it.

So what is the data God delivers? Well, we could call it all sorts of things – light, intelligence knowledge. Since God is a God of truth, for the purposes of this analogy I’ll call it “truth”. So when we are judging the quality of revelation I think it is almost entirely a function of how much truth is downloaded. Let’s take an example like “The Vision” in Section 76. I’ll call that 1 Gigabyte (GB) of truth. On the opposite end on the scale we’ll get a simple “yes” to a question. I’ll call that 250K of truth. Again for those of you who aren’t used to these numbers I should explain that 1000K = 1 Megabyte (MB) and 1000 MB = 1 GB. So in this analogy, section 76 is the equivalent of 4000 “yes” revelations.

Alright, so the ability to receive that much information from God requires that our side is completely cleaned up of spyware and that our bandwidth is as fast as we can possibly get it. Obviously Joseph Smith had incredible bandwidth and processing capacity. We all want to be more like him when it comes to revelation. Increasing our personal bandwidth requires lots of practice and lots of repentance. (I have talked about that before but will go into that part another time.)

The suggestion I want to make is this: God delivers the data (truth) in whatever format we are most comfortable with. In other words, if we have the bandwidth to receive a 100MB revelation, God automatically will send it to us in the media format that is most desirable and best suited to our learning style and preferences. For some it will be the equivalent text (pure knowledge), for others it play in our minds like audio (the voice of the Lord) for others it might be video (dreams and visions). Our minds and spirits become the Celestial media player and God sends us the Truth in whatever format will be easiest for us to deal with and comprehend. The media format is not all that important — the important part is that the truth gets delivered and understood.

Why is this useful? Well if my analogy/theory is right, it provides an explanation why 19th century saints seemed more prone to angelic visitors and visions than 20th and 21st century saints are. They were culturally predisposed to desire that media format while we modern American Saints are not. But here is the important part – I believe we can get the same truth in our preferred media format that they got in theirs. 100MB of truth is 100MB of truth regardless of if it is delivered as a video file (vision) or a PDF file (pure knowledge) and this is important because the “PDF style” of revelation seems to be the most commonly experienced style over the last several decades so it would refute the idea that pure knowledge revelations are inherently inferior to visions or other types. It also explains why those of other cultures even today are much more likely to have visions, angelic encounters, etc than most of us 21st century American are – they are culturally predisposed to prefer it as their Celestial media type.

What do you think? Am I right that the amount of Truth the only important part or is the media format in which it is delivered the most important aspect?


  1. Geoff, I like your analogy. It fits with the computer blogging format well. I have seen it illustrated in different ways over the years using other item to describe revelation.

    The interesting part to consider is the fact that there are still people out there who find the internet the spawn of Satan or that will not grasp the technology as they find it too complicated. They certainly could be added to your illustration.

    Comment by chronicler — August 2, 2005 @ 7:19 am

  2. To paraphrase Moroni:

    And if there were angelic visitations then, why has God ceased to be a God of angelic visitations and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of angelic visitations.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 2, 2005 @ 8:42 am

  3. Good point chronicler. I bet the analogy could be expanded to include a lot of other things…

    Jeffrey — That is one of the things I like about this theory. God still sends angels to those who prefer that method or who are predisposed to that medium. In fact I wrote about an angelic sighting recently. To others he sends the information in (non-angelic) media formats that make them most comfortable and best assist in their learning.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 2, 2005 @ 8:53 am

  4. I’ve sort of figured that one reason visions and such are less today is that we have easy access to scriptures and *accounts* of others’ visions. In my experience, God gives us just as much as we need, and no more. Why should I get a vision of the history of the world, like Nephi’s, when I can just read the account of his?

    Comment by Susan M — August 2, 2005 @ 9:07 am

  5. Geoff,
    Love the analogy. Love the use of our everyday objects to illustrate something spiritual just like Christ did back in the day (seeds, sheep, etc.)

    In Guatemala they get their answers through dreams MUCH more than in the United States. It’s a cultural thing that I think fits in your analogy.

    Nice work Geoff.

    Comment by Rusty — August 2, 2005 @ 9:36 am

  6. This sounds an awful lot like what protestants claim. It sounds very close to saying “we don’t need revelation of that kind any more. Instead, we have the holy spirit.” This is exactly what protestants claim.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 2, 2005 @ 10:57 am

  7. What makes any of you think that angels aren’t still visiting many? Just because your spiritual eyes have been overpowered by your natural eyes doesn’t mean that many don’t still know and trust their spiritual eyes and have intercourse with angels as a matter of course.

    Having said that, my observation in way disagrees with the strength of the anaology. I have often thought of it as a direct ability to grant “in-put” directly to the cerebral cortex or whatever faculty of reason or feeling we are willing to hear. However, I am working on another analogy — one that involves a computer mind-link where we allow our brains to be interfaced with a central processing computer so that it can use the neural/dendryte systems of our cerebral cortex to compute and as memory (in fact, the technology is now available but the ethical questions involved have prevented any attempt at implementing the technology). If God were using our brains for computing power, then we would hear his voice as background static or as random thoughts that pop into our heads. We would not hear him speaking to us using such a mind-link unless we quieted the mind to silence our own thoughts. That is much closer to my experience of revelation. Further, the formlation of the thoughts would interface with our own “central process computing” so that our voices unite and the way we express what we have heard will vary. Anyway, it is a variation on Geoff’s theme.

    Comment by Blake — August 2, 2005 @ 10:58 am

  8. I agree that the analogy works very well for inspiration however I’m uncomfortable when extending it into the realm of revelation including visitations and the like. The analogy vaguely works in that we must be prepared to receive these visitations, but I don’t think that any amount of inspiration will really serve as an adequate substitute for an angelic administration.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 2, 2005 @ 11:08 am

  9. Great post. I will probably steal it and use it when I teach. Actually I think this would be a great discussion format for Priest’s Quorum or a youth fireside. Language and concepts they can relate to and understand. Yes, I’m sure I will steal this…thanks Geoff.

    Comment by don — August 2, 2005 @ 11:30 am

  10. I like the analogy; I especially like Blake’s variant. I do have, however, a significant hang-up with Geoff’s original: The bandwidth required for the same amount of truth delivered by audio, video or text is all different. Say the lord communicates a paragraph. By text (HTML): 5 K; by Audio (mp3): 100 K; by Video: 1 Mb. I submit that even though the same amount of truth is communicated in all cases, the Video is a higher form and requires a significantly larger bandwidth (i.e., faith).

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 2, 2005 @ 11:53 am

  11. This is quickly turning into the geekiest discussion of faith that I have ever seen. ;-)

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 2, 2005 @ 12:00 pm

  12. Geoff,
    I envy your creative mind.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — August 2, 2005 @ 1:06 pm

  13. Thanks for the kind words, all. I kinda liked this analogy so I am pleased to see I am not alone in that.

    Blake: I really like your variation on this theme. Clearly you and I independently came up with similar analogies based on our experiences with revelation so I take that as a good sign that we are on to something here. The basic idea is that God sends the pure stuff (intelligence/truth) and our minds then render it in some format or another to best suit our comprehension and learning needs. In my original analogy God chose the media format before sending but perhaps you are right that it is on our side that the pure intelligence is automatically rendered in the most effective format for us. (It is a small difference but an interesting one to me.) One reason I like that change in the model is that it provides an answer to Jonathan’s concern/quibble (#10) with my analogy. It is true that the various formats I mentioned require different amounts of data so the analogy as I orignally wrote sort of falters there. But if we use your variation that the 1 GB of pure intelligence/truth is transferred directly to our minds and we then automatically render it, we get the best of both worlds. We have explanations why some cultures are more prone to visions (it’s part of their programming to render pure intelligence in that manner) but we also get around the quibble about different file sizes for different file types with the analogy.

    (I hope I didn’t confuse too many people with this comment…)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 2, 2005 @ 1:57 pm

  14. This analogy works well for the what and the how, but something else occurred to me today. Could the process of inspiration/revelation also have something to do with the who? Who is doing the communicating in an experience when we feel a witness during a testimony or a talk? Who is doing the communicating when we feel a prompting that something is wrong with a child? Or when we get an answer to a heartfelt prayer? My first thought would be the Holy Ghost. But when people talk about dreams and visions, who is doing the communicating? Deceased family members? Angels? Resurrected beings?
    This would explain why I personally find what some might dismiss as feelings, hunches, or mere inspiration to be more convincing than a dream or “seeing something” because they are coming from the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead.

    Comment by C Jones — August 2, 2005 @ 3:38 pm

  15. Good topic and posts.

    Comment by annegb — August 3, 2005 @ 6:46 am

  16. I should also point out that it is odd for you, Geoff, I self proclamed rejector of the “ticker tape” theory, to make appeals to html in your analogy of revelation.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 3, 2005 @ 8:36 am

  17. I think that if or when I write another iteration of this analogy/parable I would clean up the analogy a little bit to focus more on the the direct-link between our computer (our mind) and God’s super-computer. I might not focus as much on specific media formats because clearly that is throwning a few of the more techie people off.

    I also think I would try to find a middle ground between God choosing the media type the data/truth should rendered in (like I said in the post) and us choosing the type (like I wondered in #13). I suspect it must be a combination of both depending on the the situation.

    C jones — Good thoughts. You may be right about that added nuance. I posted on a closely related subject some time ago — on how the Holy Ghost often acts as the Holy postal service for both God and angels.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2005 @ 9:16 am

  18. “I might not focus as much on specific media formats”

    That would be pretty good. My paper dealt specifically with some of the “specific media formats” so your analogy, with those parts taken out, would actually serve as a very good compliment to my ideas.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 3, 2005 @ 9:24 am

  19. Jeffrey,

    There are certainly some parts of your paper that would be complemetary to this parable. I have always agreed with many portions of it. Of course other parts would not jibe with this analogy. I should clarify that when I say I might de-empasize specific media types I am mostly talking about my references to text of PDF files. This is in response to the quibble J had with the analogy (which others probably would have too). I would keep all of the basics: 100MB of truth could come in a video form, audio form, or some direct-link pure-knowledge form, or some combination of those three. It is the same quantity and quality of truth and Celestial intelligence but it is sent by God and rendered on the client side in whatever format the recipient is best conditioned to learn from.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2005 @ 9:41 am

  20. I guess I fundamentally disagree with the analogy, then. Let’s say you ask a question and in one case you get a simply yes thought that pops into your mind. Another case you ask a similar question and an angel appears, says yes, and then disappears. It seems that you are sugesting that the two cases are fundamentally equal. Again, I disagree.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 3, 2005 @ 10:36 am

  21. J – I need to explain what I was thinking in more detail, I think.

    In think the original analogy does work for everything except the high content text example you brought up (where I have replaced 100MB of text with 100MB “pure knowledge”). For instance, if a “yes” revelation is indeed a 250K download in the analogy I assume that the pure knowledge method would almost invariably be the rendering method. I sort of assumed that it did take a high content message to render as an angel. But then again, seeing an angel seems to be experienced as ranging from seeing (and feeling) something briefly in the temple all the way up to Moroni’s visit to Joseph; so clearly not all angelic visions are the same in content quality or quantity. I guess I am saying that I think there are a lot more factors in play and nuances to the subject than the way describe it in #20…

    From the original analogy here are some of the variables:
    1) Bandwidth connection
    2) Processing speed on client side “computer”
    3) Data amount being transferred
    4) What format the message is requested and/or sent in

    So in your example of a “yes” answer, the sender and recipient have to be synced up properly in order for the message to be transferred. I’m guessing that would preclude an angelic rendering in almost all cases because even if the recipient was properly prepared (#1-2), the data amount is so small (#3) that I find it unlikely that the Sender would agree to send an angelic vision for such a task (#4)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  22. I’ll have to admit that my “uh oh” meter pegged when I read “Imagine God has a Celestial server and our minds are the client-side computers…”  (worlds colliding and all that).

    But I recovered, and I think your analogy is pretty good. I’m sure that someone may have said it in previous comments but I think that angelic visitations are outside the scope of the analogy.

    And by the way, anyone who’s sersiously studied the deep doctrine knows that pure knowledge comes in XML format.  ;)

    Comment by Jeff M — August 3, 2005 @ 12:39 pm

  23. Great analogy Geoff! Good refining comments from everyone, too. Like Don said, I think I’ll steal this when I teach and would you mind if I quote you if/when I do a dissertation on Mormon folklore?
    The only difference I’d make is a possible variation on “preferred method.” Sometimes I think I would sure love a visitation, voice from heaven or dream to gain revelation, but God doesn’t always see it that way. Plus, I think our cultures (alluring to yours and Rusty’s comments) help define our revelation method. Having grown up in the U.S. west makes me more prone to revelation in ways different from the above.
    Good stuff

    Comment by Bret — August 3, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

  24. Jeff M: anyone who’s sersiously studied the deep doctrine knows that pure knowledge comes in XML format.

    Nyuk, nyuk nyuk! Excellent inaugural comment here at the Thang. BTW — regarding angelic visits and what class we should put them in, check out my recent post called “whether in the body or out I cannot tell.” It may peg your “uh-oh” meter too…


    Thanks for the compliment. To clarify — when I said “preferred method” I was thinking of that as the method with which we were most comfortable as well as the method we were expecting (and thus had the most faith in occuring). I guess that can be another tweak if I make a second iteration of the analogy.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 3, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

  25. Yes, but XML in compressed format. (And sometimes encrypted)

    Comment by Clark — August 9, 2005 @ 10:07 am

  26. Holy Smokes! Clark just raised the geekiness level of this conversation to new heights… (Nice work, Clark)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 9, 2005 @ 10:31 am

  27. I’m new to this blog thing and this is my first post on a blog. i just randomly landed here from a google link. Not sure if this b-quote command will work but…

    “Let’s take an example like “The Vision” in Section 76. I’ll call that 1 Gigabyte (GB) of truth.”

    Joseph Smith’s comment:

    “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them… The inhabitants of the earth are asleep.” (TPJS p. 305)

    So would that be pushing the terabyte boundary? What a set of pipes that Joseph had!

    Question: Doesn’t the flow work more like a google search? We are curious about something or have a question and query the Celestial Server for some information. What we get depends on our competency with SQL, perhaps.

    lastly, my personal opinion is that our computers are more like those network computers that have no local hard drive. All the data is on the mainframe and what we think is stored in our minds are really shortcuts (using the windows term) to the real data. The grooves in the neural pathways are like EPROMs and retain the links based on genetics (The “sins” of the parents are on the heads of the children to the third and fourth generation).

    Comment by David West — February 13, 2006 @ 12:20 am

  28. Hey David,

    Welcome to the Thang. Good additions to this concept. Interesting idea you have that there is much less of a local hard drive than I speculated. I’ll have to give that some thought.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 13, 2006 @ 10:15 am

  29. Perhaps there is an additional feature necessary to comply with the concept of eternal progression (i’ve been reading that thread with interest and hope to contribute there soon).

    We start of with an minimally configured drive which represents the beginning of spiritual creation by the mainframe – or it’s builders if the mainframe is not the sentient creator (another discussion beyond the scope here).

    As we continue to access the mainframe, we are able to retain key datum locally, building line (of code) upon line and precept (applications) upon precept.

    Eventually we become a mainframe and develop the capacity to spawn new basic “dumb” terminals (to use the old term for those Hazeltine terminals connected to the VAX 11-780 in the Clyde building at BYU).

    Thus our mainframe (kingdom) grows as those terminals themselves become mainframes. This idea is supported by that diagram of the kingdom of heaven that was published in WJS.

    Comment by David West — February 19, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

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